The 10 best historical sites in Antigua

22nd July 2016

Posted By : Toya Turner

All within easy reach of Curtain Buff

 

Most people come to Curtain Bluff to relax and indulge themselves in the hedonistic pleasures of a top resort. Those, however, who can resist the magnetic pull of the beach long enough to rent a car or driver for an hour or two can time-travel back through the centuries. The road leads back to the early colonial era when Horatio Nelson strolled the cobblestone streets of English Harbour and thunderous cannons awaited importunate pirates and jealous colonial navies.

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THE MUSEUM OF ANTIGUA & BARBUDA

Housed in the old Courthouse of 1749, this small but fascinating museum starts the island’s story long before Columbus “discovered” the island naming it after a famous miracle-working virgin, Santa Maria la Antigua, whose statue graces Seville Cathedral.

ST. JOHN’S CATHEDRAL

Opened in 1847, St. John’s was praised as “the most imposing of all the Cathedrals of the West Indian Province.” The interior is encased in pitch pine intended to secure worshippers in case of earthquake.

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SHIRLEY HEIGHTS

This military complex was named after Sir Thomas Shirley, British Governor of the Leeward Islands, who strengthened Antigua’s defenses in 1781. Today it affords one of the best views in Antigua, looking out over English and Falmouth Harbours.

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FORT JAMES

Standing at the entrance to St. John’s Harbour, Fort James still has its original ten great guns. Dating back to George III’s reign, these 2.5-ton guns could send a shot 1.5 miles.

 

NELSON’S DOCKYARD

Dating back to 1725, it’s the last remaining naval dockyard in the world designed to maintain wooden sailing warships. Horatio Nelson, who later became the famous British hero of Trafalgar (1805), was stationed here as Senior Captain in 1784.

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FALMOUTH

Close to English Harbour, Falmouth was the first town on the island. Fort George, built on Monk’s Hill between 1689 and 1730, was a place of last refuge against the attacks of Caribs and other European powers.

 

BETTY’S HOPE

One of the island’s earliest sugar plantations (1651), Betty’s Hope has a restored sugar mill tower complete with sails and a small interpretation center.

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CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP, TYRELL’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

At the entrance of the village of Tyrell’s, this striking building greets you when you exit the rainforest on the way to English Harbour. Painted in a vibrant pink hue, the building was constructed in 1932. It remains the only major Catholic church on that side of the island, serving all surrounding areas, including English Harbour.

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FIGTREE DRIVE

Circling around the southwestern quarter of the island, this five-mile drive passes the gates of Curtain Bluff as it weaves through the most picturesque and mountainous part of Antigua.

 

DEVIL’S BRIDGE

A limestone “bridge” sculpted by wave erosion, Devil’s Bridge was (according to legend) the spot where slaves came to commit suicide (the devil had got them). Today it’s a dramatic tableau, lashed by booming Atlantic breakers.

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